In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike have a casual conversation about what’s going on with each other recently. Some of the topics they touch on include Dungeons & Dragons, personal computer setups, new ideas for MicroConf, and Bluetick/TinySeed updates.
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Mike: In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and I are going to be having a casual conversation about what’s going on. This is Startups For The Rest Of Us episode 438.
Welcome to Startups For The Rest Of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at building, launching, and growing software products. Whether you’ve built your first product, or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob: And I’m Rob.
Mike: And we’re here to share experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s going on this week Rob?
Rob: I just felt like we haven’t done kind of a casual episode in a while where you and I talk about things that are going on. We often get stuck in this odd place where we might have a lot going on, but it’s not necessarily stuff you can talk about or feel comfortable broadcasting to tens of thousands of people. I feel like we’re in a good place, we’re obviously pre-recording this episode because it’s going to go live after MicroConf—I think the week after—and we’re recording it the week before just because so much is going on that whole week. Since we do Growth and Starter now, I mean the week is just torched for me. When do you fly out and when do you fly back?
Mike: I fly out on Friday. I get in at like 8:00 PM or so on Friday night and then I don’t leave until the following Friday. I think my flight is at 12:00 PM or 1:00 PM or something like that.
Rob: Yeah. It’s a full on week for you. I go Saturday to Friday. It’s only six days but still, A, six days, seven days in Vegas is too long. B, pretty much the whole time—I don’t know about you—but all I’m thinking about is, what am I forgetting? What am I missing this year? Oh yeah, we need that opening slideshow for the first 10 minutes of each conference. I need to update that. There’s all these little things and then stuff just really ramps up Sunday. Honest question, do you sleep very well at MicroConf typically?
Mike: I haven’t slept well in 4-5 years so it’s not a really fair question.
Rob: Yeah, you’re the wrong person to ask. I tend to sleep well. I don’t have many sleep problems in general aside from grinding my teeth which is irritating as heck for Sherry. At MicroConf I always struggle and I think it’s just how much I have going on in my mind. I wake up at 5:00 AM and I got to make sure to do that one thing or to tell that to that one person who needs to be at that one place at that time. There’s just a lot of details.
Xander has changed the game for us absolutely. But even then, I’m still thinking about stuff. Frequently what happens is I think of it, “Oh yeah, we need to do that one thing.” Then I wake up in the morning and I text you and Xander and Xander’s like, “Yeah, I already took care of that a week ago.” That’s actually the most often thing, but it still wakes me up in the middle of the night.
Mike: I think when I am in Vegas for MicroConf, I tend to actually sleep better I think when I’m there than when I’m at home, but that’s also I think partially a result of me remembering to bring a sleep mask because otherwise, the blinds of the hotel rooms are absolutely horrendous. You flip and shut but any hotel I’ve ever been in, they’re never very good so you have to have something else.
It feels like it gets so light so early and it just screws me because I tend to be up late and then the light comes and wakes me up in the morning. That’s the biggest problem I think I have. I agree with you in like having all those little things that are hanging out, they come up and you have to remember that, “We have to do this. I have to go back and tweak that from last year’s slides,” or whatever. That obviously comes up just constantly.
I carry around a pen and a notebook at all times just so I can make sure to write things down as they’re happening, or keep track of what has to go on with different sponsors, or different times of each conference. There’s just lots of little things to keep track of and trying to keep them in your brain is just not going to happen.
Rob: Yeah and that’s a good point too, because in my day-to-day workflow, I use email a ton. I use Trello. I just have a system that all goes out the window when I’m at MicroConf because I’m not checking email very much at all and I’m not looking at my Trello board. I have email to Trello basically. If you and I are talking in day-to-day or I’m at a dinner party and someone mentions a book I should read, or a something I should check out, a website, a person I should contact, whatever, I pop open Gmail, I email my own Trello board and it goes to the top of it. The next time I sit on my computer, I put it into the right queue. It’s an Amazon wish list, or an Audible wish list, or I fire off an email or whatever.
I don’t do that at MicroConf because I’ve just not checked my Trello board at all. That pen and paper approach you’re talking about, it’s either that or Simple Note because I have Simple Note on my phone. I just open up like a MicroConf-only to-do that I have to keep referring back to because I just find that my systems don’t work when we’re just running 110% for five days straight.
Mike: Yeah, I agree. That’s why I kind of switched over to the pen and paper. One of the things that tends to drop down on my list is the email and text notifications, though text notifications are different than Slack notifications. I totally don’t pay attention to it. You’re right though, being in a different environment like that where you’re not at your desktop, you don’t have all the tools available to you because you’ve just got so many other things going on, and you’re not really able to get into any sort of deep work because you don’t have your desktop, or laptop, or whatever. It’s just a very different operating environment.
Rob: Do you still use a desktop, Mike?
Mike: I do.
Rob: Are you going to bring that with you to MicroConf?
Mike: No, I’m not. I think the 30-inch monitor would probably be hard to get through.
Rob: For the love of god man, why do you use a desktop at home and not a laptop?
Mike: I have yet to find an actual laptop that I like and like enough to take with me, that’s part of it I think. I built my desktop from hand, because I’ve always kind of built my own computers even back when I was in college. I like the hardware that went with it but at the same time, because I built this 5-6 years ago, actually no, it’s more than that because I just recently reformatted everything, but I didn’t replace any of the hardware. I’m trying to remember, I think I found a software that was installed like 2010-2011. Most of the hardware is that old. I think it’s a hex core machine. It was a top of the line Core i7 at the time. I’ve got 64 gigs of RAM in it and SSD drives. The thing is it’s still a beastly machine all things considered.
Rob: Given that it’s 10 years old or 9 years old I guess, that’s a trip. I guess my question is and it’s going to die eventually. It’ll either fail or it’ll just be too slow to run stuff. When that happens, are you going to buy or build another desktop or you just kind of pony up for top of the line, because you’re in Windows right? It’s top of the line Dell, or HP, or whoever’s making Lenovo these days.
Mike: Yeah. For a while, I’ve been using a MacBook Pro and just ran VMware on top of it.
Rob: Dual booting or VMware. Are you going to just buy a high-end MacBook?
Mike: I don’t think so. I have not heard anybody have great things to say about the newer Macs. Everybody I see talking about them kind of hates them. They’re like, “I wish I could go back to the 2013 model.” Funny enough, I actually have a 2013 MacBook Pro. I use that when I travel, but I go back and forth on this. I think the biggest thing for me is, in order to be productive, I feel like I have to have more screen real estate available to me. I run three monitors at all times. One of them is a 30-inch and a pair of 20-inch monitors. That really works well for me. Going to a laptop kind of sucks. I looked at like the Surface Books…
Rob: You can do that because I run two monitors, two 24-inch or whatever off of my laptop. My laptop is one monitor and it’s retina so it’s amazing, and then I have the two 24s, so I essentially have three. How is that different than what you’re doing?
Mike: It’s not, except that on the one laptop that I was looking at was the Microsoft Surface Book and it doesn’t have the ability to do three monitors at 60 hertz because of the bandwidth limitations or something like that for 4K monitors. They’re so close, they really are.
Rob: That’s the limitation. I wonder if there isn’t a laptop out there—you don’t need to drive three monitors, you just need to drive two because the laptop itself if it’s high-res, you can use that in the center. I have an elevated thing. My laptop is up at eye level, and then I have a remote Bluetooth keyboard and mouse that I sit on my lap, basically on a panel, that’s the center monitor and then I have two on the other side. I just need to drive two. A, will that situation work for you and B, can you find a windows laptop that can drive two 4K monitors?
Mike: I haven’t tried doing that yet. Would it work for me or could I make it work for me? I probably could, but your comment about, “Oh, eventually my machine is not going to be able to do it.” My machine’s lasted long enough. Since that time, processors haven’t gone to six or seven gigahertz. I don’t think it’s an issue of that so much as just being able to have the laptop itself. I don’t have a justifiable reason to just go drop $3000-$4000 on a new laptop.
Rob: I agree and I don’t think you should do that now. I was just wondering when your desktop fails because it will. Something’s going to happen or it’s going to get too slow in the next five years. It’s not going to last 15 years. I was just wondering what you were going to do at that point, but maybe you’ll evaluate it when you get there.
I guess the thing of just working on a laptop all the time is then when you’re traveling, you’re not in this weird environment where you don’t have your stuff and it’s not the way it is. I have a 13-inch MacBook Pro and it is the new one with the touch bar. I don’t love the touch bar but I’ve gotten used to it. When I’m at home, I have extra screen real estate it’s amazing. When I’m on the road, I don’t but you can flip back and forth between the windows and I have the exact same shortcuts, icons everywhere, the same files, everything. It’s the same hard drive.
To me, traveling isn’t this big issue. I hate switching computers I guess is what I’m saying. I figure that’s why most people have moved to laptop so they can be mobile and go to a coffee shop or do something and it’s not this step down, aside from screen real estate, it’s not a step down in productivity. That’s all I was wondering for you.
Mike: That’s something I look at. My preference I think would be able to have a laptop that can do everything that I want and needed to do and that I just have a docking station. Just plug it in and everything’s the same. I can go on the road, or go to a coffee shop, or something like that, but I don’t work well or at least I haven’t historically worked very well in coffee shops or remote locations. It’s partly because I have back problems.
For me to sit at a coffee shop or in some weird chair that doesn’t do a good job of distributing my weight, I have kind of a hard time just sitting there and trying to be productive because I’m just sitting there in pain more than anything else. Maybe that’s part of why it doesn’t matter nearly as much to me as it probably would to somebody else. But I do want to at some point be able to switch and just say I just grab the thing and go, and that’s my entire environment, and nothing’s changed, I don’t have to worry about any of the stuff that you talked about where syncing things back and forth.
Most of the time for the current setup I have like, I have a MacBook Pro but then I have a windows VM that’s running on it. I reinstall all the software there. It’s a very similar environment. It’s not exactly the same, but anything that needs to be there, I just keep it in Dropbox, or Google docs, or something like that. It’s not that big a deal and Chrome keeps all my bookmarks in the same places. It’s not nearly as painful as it probably was 10-15 years ago.
Rob: That’s what I was going to say. With Dropbox and being able to sign in to Chrome and have your browser. You’re in your browser a lot of the time anywhere unless you’re writing code so it is nice. We were talking about MicroConf and we veered into that. I’m pretty stoked man. You’re running a little mini campaign fifth edition D&D on Saturday.
Mike: I am. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve got a bunch of stuff that’s already kind of laid out. I have just a couple of things I got to send you guys. I have to do that in the next day or so. It should be good. I almost wish I could talk a little bit more about it because I think it’s going to be interesting. I’ve actually run it twice so far. It’s not like everything is completely new. There are certain places where I know that there’s a few issues to iron out, but I think I’ve got them all straightened out. I took all of your characters and I gave them to other people and said, I want you to play these characters and I wanted to see how things kind of shook out. I’m hoping it’s well prepared.
Rob: That’s cool. If you’ve done it multiple times, to me it’s like a conference talk. The second, third, and fourth time I do a talk, it just gets better and better until to the point where I get bored of it, and it starts getting worse. I think you’re still on the upswing with this campaign.
Mike: Yeah. We’ll see. I mean it’s just a simple one shot. I expect it to take maybe three—like both times I ran it before, it’s taken four hours. I got to come and tighten that in somehow.
Rob: A little bit, yeah.
Mike: I have an idea of how to do that, I’m not sure you guys will like it though.
Rob: To kill it, do a TPK.
Mike: No. Well, I could do that. The very first room you walk into, “Hey, nobody dies. Let’s go get a beer.” I was thinking something along the lines of like a timer or something like that would be like, “Hey, this is kind of timed here, you’ve got to go a little bit quicker than you normally would.” I don’t know.
Rob: There’s a nuclear bomb waiting to go off and goes off of you if you don’t get this done. Is this campaign something you came up with or is it like a module?
Mike: It’s a module. Somebody ported it from fourth edition to fifth, and then I ported it from that platform because it was made for Fantasy Grounds which allows you to play D&D online. You get tokens and stuff to drag around and stuff, but the module itself because it was ported from fourth edition to fifth edition, it’s got errors in it. That’s why I wanted to play it a couple times in advance because the very first time I run it I was like, “This is a problem. That’s a problem. This is wrong like flat out.” They’re referring to things that just simply don’t exist and the authors never went back and fixed any of it. It’s like, “Well, what’s my interpretation of what it should be or how it’s supposed to be?”
Rob: It’s going to exciting and for folks who don’t know, it’s fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons that we’re talking about which is the current edition of that. You and I have never gamed together before, so this would be kind of cool. Frankly, I got out of D&D until 4-5 years ago when my oldest son got old enough to start playing, then I had the impetus to get into it again. Did you also take a bunch of time off from it and recently get back into it?
Mike: When I graduated from high school and went to college, I think I played once once or twice. I played once in college that I remember and I might have played over the summer the year after I went to college or something like that with some friends back home. But like you, I took a bunch of time off and I started again. When they first published fifth edition, I bought the books as they came out. When those were published I think back in 2014, this was about five years ago, that’s when I got back into it and started rereading stuff.
I basically skipped from the second edition all the way to the fifth and know very little about the third and fourth editions other than what I’ve read about what the differences are between those and the fifth edition. Just because some people I play with have played the version three and I didn’t know much about it. I was trying to educate them about what the differences were, but most of the people I play with now, they’ve either played second edition or they’re kind of new.
Rob: I did the same thing. I played basic back in the early 80s and then played [inaudible 00:15:39]. When the first edition AD&D came out, we played that. I don’t think I ever played second edition, never played third or fourth. When I got back into it, let’s say 4-5 years ago, I Googled, “Coming back into D&D. I’m going to teach my kid. Should we play first edition because that’s what I’m most familiar with or is fifth edition good?” There were some really cool threads talking about the pros and cons of it.
In the end, people are like, “Fifth edition is a better,” not better, that was not the word they used, but it’s a faster rule set. The game moves quicker. It’s easier to understand for someone who’s never played it and there’s tons of new stuff being put out for. You can do either one, but consider checking out fifth edition. It’s nice that the rules are available for free. There’s a PDF that Wizards of the Coast lets you down. I downloaded it and I was blown away by the simplicity and how they’ve gotten rid of all of descending armor class, and all these tables to hit, and saving throws and stuff and it’s just come down to difficulty checks with advantage and disadvantages. It’s just really elegant to me—elegant simplifications of things.
I know folks who are used to the old stuff, adapting something new is like changing programming languages from SEED to Ruby or something, seed.net where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is such a different paradigm.” Even if it might be more elegant or whatever, it doesn’t feel that way because it’s different. When I was 10, 12, or 14, I just had hours and hours to pour into it, invented our own stuff, and read every book, but I just don’t have that time now. It’s like, “Look, I have two hours a week maybe three hours to hammer something out. What’s fast and what’s fun to play?”
Mike: Now you can go online and there’s like random dungeon generators, and random character generators, and all the stuff, they’re fantastic tools that streamline things. I remember I used to spend an hour or two creating a character and now you can just go and use one of these tools, and you can have a character done in 10-15 minutes tops. That’s just fantastic.
Mike: I agree. I love the fifth edition rule set overall the other ones over the basic edition, the AD&D first edition, and second edition just because I think the biggest thing that I think it has going for it is that your character will get more powerful as they level up, as opposed to depending so much on items and things like that in order to make you more powerful. That’s the thing I think I disliked the most about some of the previous editions, because you could just make somebody completely overpowered at a super low level just by giving them a bunch of magic items. Whereas with this one, you’re competitive every step of the way with no magic item which is kind of awesome.
Rob: Right, it makes sense. I know we can talk about D&D. This could be a casual D&D conversation with just Rob and Mike, or tabletop gaming. Folks who don’t play D&D might have already tuned out. Those two listeners are gone. I have a question for you. Have you ever been to a conference where the opening 10 minutes, where the host gets on stage and talks about things, sets the stage so to speak, for what’s going to happen during the conference. What’s the best one of those you’ve ever seen? Have you seen any that have blown you away, I think. Obviously, the reason I’m asking you is, we have adapted ours over the years especially last year changed, the whole slide deck changed, the format changed, and stuff. I’m just trying to think about the best way to keep improving that.
Mike: I don’t know about best. I would say the most interesting one I ever saw—and I wasn’t there personally for this—I’m think this is a little bit of secondhand information. I was there the year after and I think that as a result of that previous year, things have changed in terms of policies of the company. It was at a Altiris conference back in, I want to say 2007-2009 timeframe, or something like that maybe it was even slightly before that, but the founder of the company came in through the back, and went through the aisles, and up on the stage riding a motorcycle.
Rob: Okay. Let’s talk to Xander, and on Monday, I want you to do that.
Mike: Sure. I do have my motorcycle. I could do that theoretically.
Mike: I think we may need to update the insurance, and waivers, and various other things.
Rob: And all the things, yeah, and rent a motorcycle, and get the drop to let us drive it through the hall. Alright, so that’s not helpful. That was completely unhelpful.
Mike: That’s my job here I think, to be completely unhelpful.
Rob: Exactly. Doing it 438 episodes since 2010—being unhelpful.
Mike: Yeah. I don’t know what the most interesting thing is. I mean I’ve been to conferences where the founder of whatever the business is, will come out and then give a really good opening talk or presentation, and it talks about the future, but it’s not like a 5 or 10 minute intro. It’s usually the keynote speech or something like that.
Rob: It’s a keynote, right. It’s an actual talk. Obviously, at MicroConf, for folks who haven’t been, you and I get up and we have between 10-15 minutes right at the start of the conference where we welcome everybody, we talk about what MicroConf is, we go through a breakdown of attendees, and stages they’re at, and that kind of stuff. It sets the stage for where we’re headed. Because it would be weird if everyone shows up at 10:00 AM on Monday and you and I get up and we’re just like, “Ladies and gentlemen, Jason Cohen, Chris Savage,” or whoever our speaker is and they get up on stage, because it’s not a program, it’s just a disjointed speaker after speaker. There’s no context for all of it. That’s why we’ve always done the welcome of like, “Welcome.” I don’t know. I’m just trying to think of something that’s not a keynote per se. We could do whatever we want. We can’t do it this year because the schedule is already set but next year, you and I could…
Mike: Are you looking for something different like to change it up in terms of saying how can we do this differently, or just looking for ideas of what other things, or are you just looking for validation of, “Is this the best thing for us to do or not?”
Rob: I think we should do it. I don’t think that’s part of the conversation of us not getting up there. It could be super weird if we weren’t there to welcome the people. Someone has to be there. I think we should do something. I think what we did last year was better than what we have done in prior years. I just am looking, is there anything else we can add to that to make it even better. That’s what I’m thinking about.
I think the best one I’ve seen was at SaaStr. Jason Lemkin got up and talked for maybe 15 minutes. It wasn’t a keynote, it was kind of like the state of SaaStr. He talked about the conference, and he talked about their community, and he talked about their fund, and it really was just an overview. It’s like when you think about writing a 10-page paper. You start high level, and then you dig in deep, and then at the end you come back to high level to conclude, and that’s how I think we structure MicroConf.
We have that introduction that really is this high level context setting, and then at the end, we should wrap it up with context and stuff, and we even have to structure the talks that way. We don’t tend to put a super tactical talk as the first talk on Monday because the vibe is off if you do that. That’s it. I think I might try to think back to what SaaStr’s opening was like and see if there’s any elements of that that could apply to us. We are similar to that opening and that we do set context, but I think there’s just ways to do it better.
Mike: What we do is we set context for the attendees at the conference. An idea that comes to mind—and obviously, there’s zero time to do that for this year—this is actually something that I have had an idea of the within the past couple of years like, “Hey, it would be cool if somebody kind of headed this up.” Not that I really had the time to do it, but it’s something that either we could potentially put together because of the audience and community.
But as you said, kind of give the state of self-funded entrepreneurs, or the state of SaaS applications, or the state of software in general for extremely small software companies like ours. Give a 10-15 minute overview of, “Hey, this is some of the major changes that have kind of come out over the past year. This is how things are progressing. These are things that are going on in the industry that people should kind of either be on the lookout for or be careful of. These are some opportunities that you guys might want to think about.” As opposed to what we do right now which is welcome them to the conference which I do think we still need to do that. But I also think that it would be nice if there was this extra piece there that was kind of an opening that did set the stage for other stuff. I think what that would actually probably take is doing interviews with founders, or calls, or surveys, and things along those lines to help gather information from the community to be able to compile that and show it to them.
I did a talk in MicroConf Europe in 2016 that I basically did that. I asked people for information and say, “Hey, could you submit this?” I’m basically writing a talk about it. I included a bunch of that information, but it’s not something I could potentially do like every single year so I just didn’t keep it up. I think something along those lines could be helpful and useful for the audience.
Rob: Do you know what the name of my talk is on Monday afternoon? You have not looked have you?
Mike: You know, I don’t even know the names of all the speakers.
Rob: I know. Well, we do keep a firewall between speakers and sponsors. Literally, we were talking last week I guess and I said, “Yeah, I don’t know.” I know some of the sponsors because there’s a lot of them returning, but I tend to wait until a day or two before to look through all the sponsors. Because this is our editorial firewall. Advertising versus editorial, we don’t link those two up. I don’t want that to influence decisions.
Rob: But the name of my talk is, The State of Bootstrapping in 2019. It’s not exactly what you are talking about, but I am trying to give that overview and talk about trends, and what’s happened over the past 10 years. I mean, you saw my Europe talk from eight months ago, or six months ago. It’s an expansion of that.
Mike: That would be cool. I mean obviously, you don’t want to do a one hour talk at the very beginning like that.
Mike: I don’t know how you would condense your talk into 10-15 minutes. That’s the other thing I think I would struggle with is how to gather enough data that is meaningful and useful to the audience, and present it in a short enough timeframe that isn’t distracting, or it doesn’t create a whole host of other questions.
Rob: Right. We have all these questions and then it’s like, “Alright and now our first speaker.” And people are like, “No wait, I want to hear more. That was in the middle of it. I’m so confused.” What’s up with Bluetick?
Mike: Oh, let’s see here.
Rob: Oh, that? What’s Bluetick?
Mike: What’s that? Could you spell that? I need to Google it real quick while we’re on a call.
Rob: What’s the news on that? I’m sure people want to hear it. Have you been working on it? Are you too bogged down with MicroConf stuff?
Mike: I’ve been so bogged down with MicroConf stuff and all sorts of other things going on. I think we talked about it a little bit in the last episode or the one before that. Just the timing of MicroConf and lots of other things that are going on has been so incredibly bad that I have not had time to look at it. Last week I had to sit down for a day or two and look at renewing my health insurance, because I think most people renew their health insurance at the beginning of the year and mine’s up for renewal on April 1st. I and had to call them and I’m just like, “Look, this is really bad timing.” They’re like, “We need to have this paperwork in by the 1st. Otherwise, it’s going to renew at the current rates.” I’m like, “Dear god.” It’s the worst timing.
Rob: I don’t renew my health insurance. What does that even mean? You have to reapply and fill out paperwork? I’ve never done that.
Mike: They change the plans every year. I don’t know whether this happens for everybody. They change the insurance plans that are available and the rates for all of them change as well. Sometime they will move things around. It’ll change the prescription coverage, or they’ll change what is covered under a particular plan, or they’ll change copays or which hospitals they cover. It’s just like, “Dear god, this sucks.” I have to renew by April 1st or basically, I just don’t have coverage.
It will automatically renew but because of the timeframe, I have to look at it now and figure out whether what I’m going to be doing now is the right thing or not. I was like, “Well, what about an HSA account or something like that?” They said, “Well, in order for you to do an HSA account, we have to give you entirely new plans because these are not HSA certified.” I’m like, “Oh my god.” Then there’s like a health savings account which is not…
Rob: Wait, that’s not HSA. You’re FSA, flexible spending account.
Mike: I think that’s it. Yeah.
Mike: Yeah. All these terms that are very close to one another that I’m not familiar with because I’m not in that industry. I’m just like, “I’m so confused. Why do I have to learn this right now and have 10 minutes to do it?” Like I said, it’s just bad timing and lots of major things all in a very compressed timeframe and it sucks.
Rob: You’ve been doing health insurance, taxes, prepping for MicroConf, right?
Rob: And so Bluetick is just kind of ‘blue ticking’ along?
Mike: Yeah, basically. I mean aside from the things that I talked about the last couple weeks. The webcast I’m going to be doing. That’s scheduled in late April. I’ve been doing little things here and there trying to move things along. I’ve also been doing research on the backend framework that runs Bluetick. Maybe this is a good time to talk about that, or maybe we should talk about it in the future episodes. I talked to Andrew Culver briefly about it because he is the founder Bullet Train which is essentially a framework that you can use as a starting point for your app whatever it happens to be. He takes care of all of the fundamental things like sign in, password reset, Stripe integration, and all these things. Basically, you start plugging the logic of your application.
When I was first building Bluetick and started out, I couldn’t really find anything like that, but I did find an open source project where they said, “Hey, here’s the MIT license for this,” or whatever, “and you can use this stuff.” It looked like it was pretty decent it’s just it didn’t do everything that I needed to do, and then you’re seeing some of the same library. I based a lot of stuff in on it, imported some of the code, but then there’s obviously a divergence there. They did their own thing and I did mine.
I went back and looked at it and it’s much farther along than it was at the time, and more advanced in certain cases which would actually make it easier for me to use that and plug in more functionality, but the database tables don’t line up. I’d have to port things over and deal with that stuff. I’m just like, “Is it worth it?” I’ve done a little bit of exploration there, but by porting it over would give me all the core functions or the features of just like a SaaS application would be taken cared of for me, and I wouldn’t have to worry about them. I just don’t know if I have a good sense of how long it would take to do that or whether it’s worth it. It maybe something I just do it over time and not necessarily worry too much about it.
Rob: I think the question I asked is like, to me, your number one goal right now is more paying customers. It’s ensure problem-solution fit, ensure product-market fit, and more paying customers, and this doesn’t do that. I know that it makes longer term, it’s a good call. If you run this app for 10 years, 20 years, then yeah, it’s good to be on a framework assuming that they maintain it. But I think that’s pushing off the number one priority which is get more people in your funnel, close more deals, get more revenue because that’s really the point you’re at. Just my take.
Mike: I totally agree with that. That’s why I haven’t tried to bite the bullet and actually do it. There are certain issues that the app has in terms of team accounts and things like that. I’m just like, I don’t want to go down the path of some of those things right now until I have more customers and more revenue because it’s just not—I don’t want to say it’s not important—it’s not the top priority.
Mike: At some point, I’ll do it, but I have a hard time doing it now.
Rob: I would agree. There’s always a lot of distractions like that. I think we talked about last time where customers give you more things or even you have more great ideas and you can never implement. You, as part of being a founder and making the right choice, is picking the ones that are going to have the most impact for you. It’s like, “What are you trying to impact now?” To me, it’s your top line, or bottom line, or however you want to phrase that.
Rob: Cool. I guess in the interest of time, we’ll wrap up here in the next couple of minutes. There’s some new stuff at TinySeed but it’s in that weird phase where we have all these applicants and I’m interviewing a lot of them. I’m having fun doing it. It’s super busy and then like you, trying to get taxes done, prepping for MicroConf. My talk is not done and I fly out basically in 48 hours. I know. The dirty little secret of you do enough talks, and you find that you’re closer and closer to your deadline.
I remember Dharmesh Shah at BOS years ago; it was probably a decade ago now. We were talking and we’re both doing a talk that year I believe. I might’ve been doing like a lightning talking and he was doing a full one. Anyways, he said, “Yeah, I’ll start my talk at 11:00 tonight,” and he did it the next day. I was like, “What? I’ve been prepping for weeks.” I was obviously much earlier in my conference speaking than he was. He said, “Yeah.” He typically sits until three in the morning and just writes his talk all at once the night before and that that’s kind of his best way to work.
That’s not mine because I don’t like staying up that late, but I do find that the pressure of having to get it done often forces me to really focus and ship good material. I can burn dozens of hours over the course of weeks if I have all this time to write the talk. Now the practice of it I think is another thing. I think having more time to practice does improve the talks. Off to figure out some good times to do that.
Mike: That’s something I kind of struggle with too is, getting the talk done early enough to be able to also do a lot of practice. I don’t know about you, I have little hacks and stuff that I put in a bunch of my slides where if I’m going through it—and I have a couple bullet points—if there is a bullet point that has a period at the end of it, then I know that hitting the button again goes to the next slide and things like that. Most people wouldn’t catch those types of things, but there’s little things that I use as visual indicators for myself to know what’s coming next, or to pay attention to a certain thing, or make a certain point.
Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. I guess the last thing for me is with TinySeed. As with any startup in the early days—here’s the difference actually is, nowadays, if I were to start a new company that’s going to build a software product, I would go to Stripe Atlas and I would form an LLC or a C-Corp through their one click thing and it creates a bank account that does all these stuff. It’s a solved problem now. I know that you’re then going to need some other paperwork as you hire employees and stuff. There’s gusto and there’s benefits. There are ways that have simplified it.
It’s not there yet with starting an accelerator and essentially an investment fund. The nature starting those is not as refined. You go straight to law firm, and you’re forming multiple LLCs that reference one another, and there’s just a lot of complexity there. Luckily, Einar, my cofounder with TinySeed, has taken care of most of that. But there have just been a few points where I’ve been involved in conversations as we’re trying to get term sheets nailed down and stuff. I had one simple question about changing one word to make things clearer and it wound up being this 10 email back and forth that got more and more complicated.
I don’t know if I wasn’t explaining myself well, but it was one of those moments where I finally said, “I give up. It’s just going to have to be complicated on the dock because to change it from pre-money to post-money would require a huge paragraph, and all these exceptions, and this huge bulleted list in what is otherwise a 10-word sentence right now.” If we do pre-money, then it’s 10-word sentence. If we do post-money, I think based on what he was telling me, I couldn’t actually understand, it just [inaudible 00:36:04] out of control. That’s the kind of stuff that is so frustrating to me as someone who is trying to get things done.
I was trying to send things to people three days ago and then it winds up being this back and forth back. We were going to jump on the phone, I know it would have helped, it would’ve been the same conversation that happened via email. I think the perpetual frustration of being a founder is, you always have these things that are just outside of your control or maybe your expertise. They get complicated and they become time sucks beyond what they should I think. I’m learning when to just throw my head up and say, “I’m going to give up on this one. I’m not going to fight this anymore. I’m not going to waste anymore time.” I think as a younger entrepreneur, I wasted a lot of time fighting against things like this rather than eventually just saying, “Look, it doesn’t really matter. Just do it the way it is.”
Mike: You raged against a machine when you were younger?
Rob: Indeed I did, over and over.
Mike: I think that that type of problem happens in general when you start a business. There’s going to be certain things that are out of your control and it sucks because you want to move fast and you want to get them done. At the same time, I think that one of the issues that you’re running into is that, when it comes to legal terminology, there’s hundreds of years of history of legal things that have happened, and there is precedence that has been set. When you say one word versus another word, it can drastically change how that is interpreted in the eyes of the courts. It sucks to have to deal with that stuff.
I don’t want to say it’s exactly like programming because with writing code, you have to be very explicit about what you wanted to do, and then what the exceptions are. But with legal terminology, there’s always—I don’t want to say ambiguity—but there’s different ways to interpret the exact same words. It kind of sucks sometimes.
Rob: Yeah. It is what it is. I know that people out there are probably not in their head. It’s like taxes, legal stuff, there are others. I don’t know, plumbing code in your SaaS app. It’s things that don’t move your business forward.
Mike: You said plumbing code and I thought the actual plumbing pipes.
Rob: That too.
Mike: [inaudible 00:38:09].
Rob: It’s stuff that doesn’t move your business forward.
Rob: That’s all I have to say. We should probably wrap it up for the day huh?
Mike: Yeah, I think so.
Rob: Most of our episodes are not this casual. We answer a lot of listener questions as well as dive into detailed and interesting startup topics. If you have a question for us call our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Outta Control by MoOt used under Creative Commons. Subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for Startups.